Here at EF, we miss traveling just as much as you do (maybe even more). We’ve been reviewing travel information from a variety of sources including from U.S. and International local and federal authorities, alongside the real-time, on-the-ground information we receive from our local offices, staff, and the partners and suppliers we work with to inform our ability to run tours. With the world slowly opening up, EF Ultimate Break was able to take a group of travelers to Costa Rica this past winter. We talked to two EF staff members, Aaron R. and Josh K., who joined one of our EF Ultimate Break tours. Spoiler alert: Their tour was vibrant and packed with activities like ziplining, white water rafting, and local food-sampling. Yes, even in the age of COVID-19. Read on to learn more about their Costa Rica student trip:
Q: What was the on-tour experience like?
Aaron R: Most of the activities were exactly the same. There were only a few small differences. We typically try to build in a local exchange experience on these Costa Rica travel experiences, and that’s the only thing we didn’t get to do because we wanted to ensure the safety of both the travelers and the locals. But our Tour Director, Gustavo, set up this really awesome fruit stand visit for us where they had pre-partitioned out plates of fruit and local candies that we all got to try, which was really cool. The only other difference was the fact that we were wearing masks, but everything else was pretty much the same.
Our EF travelers were so unbelievably thrilled to be there. They all said they really needed this just as a reset in their lives, to get out of their monotonous day-to-day of being at home. People got emotional on the last day during our final dinner while reflecting on the trip, but they were so grateful for the fact that they had this opportunity, especially during these times. That was really lovely to see.
Q: What did everyone need to do to prepare for this tour to Costa Rica?
Josh K: So, the first thing travelers needed to do (and this is an EF requirement to travel) is get a negative COVID test within 72 hours of going on the trip. That’s not just for Costa Rica travel; that’s an EF requirement. Moving forward, all travelers will now also have to sign our EF COVID Safe Traveler Agreement that will be available in travelers’ online accounts at 30 days prior to departure.
The second thing was, for Costa Rica specifically, you have to fill out a health declaration form. It is a form you fill out confirming you have not been in contact with anybody with COVID within the past 14 days and you have not personally had COVID within the past 14 days. And then you also have to upload your insurance information proving you have ample coverage in case you become ill with COVID while on tour or need to quarantine. Travelers who have purchased a Global Travel Protection plan through EF already have ample coverage, and we will provide you with the necessary paperwork prior to travel.
Q: Could you elaborate a little bit on the role of the tour director, and how their role changed from a pre-COVID tour?
Josh K: The role of Tour Director is essentially the same. One difference is they’re very aware of everybody wearing their mask. Our Tour Director even gave each of us a mask at the start of the tour and a plastic bag in case we were doing water activities to make sure it didn’t get wet. He was also very diligent as far as making sure everybody had hand sanitizer when they got back on the bus, making sure we went through the correct processes when we went to certain places, making sure we washed our hands. So, the role isn’t very different. He was focused on making sure we were able to enjoy the tour and that we were taking the steps to keep ourselves as safe as possible.
Aaron R: I was fortunate enough to go on another Costa Rica student trip back in 2019. And I had the same Tour Director we had for this trip. Ninety percent of what he did was exactly the same across the board. He’s still the tour facilitator, he’s providing educational content on the bus, he’s making sure all our hotel reservations are checked and rechecked. He’s handling all of that for us—but now with the added layer of COVID guidelines. Overall, it was pretty much the same, which was nice, and he did it very well!
We can’t wait to see you out on the road! Until then, plan your future travel with EF.